EU railway industry loses 26 billion euro in revenue due to pandemic

The EU railway industry has lost 26 billion euros in revenue last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These figures are based on data collected among the members of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), which largely represent the industry in Europe. Passenger services were more affected than freight, but the pandemic is taking its toll across the board. 

The EU rail freight industry suffered 2 billion in revenue loss compared to the previous year, indicating a 12 per cent decrease. For passenger traffic the damage was much larger: the industry lost 42 billion euros in revenue, a 42 per cent decrease compared to 2019.

“We all hope for a brighter future at the dawn of the EU Year of Rail, but these figures bring us back to a dire reality”, the organisation said. It presented the figures at the CER General Assembly which took place on 26 January via videoconference.”The CER has been monitoring the situation in close collaboration with all our members and the data collected for 2020 reveals the alarming financial impact of COVID-19 on railways.”

Freight migitated losses

While these figures are daunting enough, they only show part of the picture. Feight seems to have managed to somewhat mitigate losses in the second half of 2020. In 2020, The volumes dropped by 30 per cent due at first, but by the end of the year had recovered to normal levels, said Conor Feighan from the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA) in RailFreight Live earlier.

However, the situation of passenger services started to deteriorate again in the autumn (after a short upswing during the summer) to reach record-high revenue losses of -50 per cent in December. CER Executive Director Alberto Mazzola commented “The COVID-19 crisis is impacting heavily on railways. However the rail sector is showing resilience and capacity to help fight the pandemic and assist society on the road to recovery. Getting Europe’s economy back on track while continuing to bring down global emissions is a pressing dual challenge. The European Year of Rail is a timely recognition of the role railways can and should play on these fronts.”

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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